Daniel Giddings is the Student Director at Lighthouse Church in Glen Burnie, MD. What that means, is that Daniel leads the youth ministry, guides them in their walks with Christ, and encourages them to grow into young leaders themselves by overseeing the lessons they learn on a week to week basis. He didn’t reach this position overnight though. His leadership has grown and developed over his years as he nurtured his gift of relatability.
Daniel grew up in Aiken, South Carolina with the guidance and support of his parents, and his sisters. He was the typical middle child peacemaker in the family, which ultimately led him to the desire to understand and better relate to the people he interacts with. As Daniel grew older, he went to college in Ohio and had a difficult time deciding on a major. After graduating with a degree in English Literature, he gravitated toward working with teenagers. His experience working in summer camps, and his gift for relatability, helped him to realize his “natural ability to connect with students and drive them deeper into discussions by relating to their lives”.
This then led Daniel to teaching English in Korea to children ranging from elementary through high school. Along his way there he made a friend who started a non-profit organization called Axis, located in Colorado Springs, that consisted of traveling all over the United States to speak to middle and high school students about critical thinking and pop culture. This is where Daniel discovered his knack for public speaking and how he met his lovely wife, Hannah.
“my role at Lighthouse has allowed me to focus on the thing I love the most”
After meeting Hannah, Daniel decided to slow down and got a job teaching 7th grade English at Annapolis Area Christian School in Annapolis, Maryland. Because of his experience teaching Daniel says, “I absolutely loved the daily interaction with students. Again, building trust and connection came easily. My relationship with students and parents was strong, and I found myself in many conversations where students felt comfortable discussing deeper issues because of the trust we’d built”. During a men’s retreat at Lighthouse Church, the church staff noticed Daniel’s gift of working with the youth and offered him a position as the Student Director. The youth ministry has made a complete turnaround since Daniel took it over and has more youth involved than ever before. Regarding his position, Daniel says, “my role at Lighthouse has allowed me to focus on the thing I love the most, which is communicating truth while simultaneously building relationships”.
Daniel describes his leadership style as “relate, relate, relate… and then teach”. Based on my interview with Daniel I would definitely describe his leadership is more of a relationship style. Northouse describes this style as wanting to “connect or attach with others” (p. 107). Daniel definitely lets his leadership bloom out of the relationships he builds with others. In his interview he mentioned that his ability to connect and relate with the youth is what has made him such a strong leader in that environment. I’ve gotten to witness Daniel at church and after observation, I would say that he would fall under McGregor’s concept of Theory Y. This theory follows the three basic assumptions that 1) the average person does not inherently dislike work. Doing work is as natural as play. 2) People will show responsibility and self-control toward goals to which they are committed. And 3) In the proper environment, the average person learns to accept and seek responsibility.
Daniel is definitely the type of person who sees the best in people. He tries to look at things from their perspective and is always giving people the benefit of the doubt. This type of person definitely operates under the Theory Y assumptions as well as demonstrates a democratic leadership style. Northouse describes a democratic leadership style as leaders who “work with subordinates, trying hard to treat everyone fairly, without putting themselves above subordinates” (p. 91). Daniel does this by working with his volunteers to ensure that they’re working collaboratively to spread the love of Jesus with the middle and high school students at Lighthouse Church.
In the book of Acts, we read about a man named Paul, who so passionately worked against Jesus until Jesus revealed Himself to Paul through the Holy Spirit. Paul became one of the greatest leaders and followers of Christ ever known. What made Paul such a great leader was his passion for spreading the word of God, sharing the story of Jesus and of the resurrection, and inviting people all across the globe to know Jesus and to have a personal relationship with Him. Paul shows us that good leaders are good leaders because they are passionate about what they do. After interviewing Daniel, it is very apparent that the reason he is so good at leading the youth is because he not only has a gift of being able to connect with them, but he is passionate about making those connections, spreading truth, and inspiring the youth to become leaders themselves for Jesus. Daniel’s passion for the youth reminds me so much of the passion Paul has in his letters to the gentile communities about coming to know Jesus and following Him as their Lord.
“relate, relate, relate… and then teach”
In my interview with Daniel, he was very humble about his strengths as a leader, and quick to point out his weaknesses. Some strengths I have noticed is Daniel’s eloquence in delivering a message to young people. He has an ability to just talk openly in a way that gets others to feel open, honest, and trust him. This is huge when it comes to the youth, because young adolescents have a hard time opening up and talking to anyone at that age. A weakness he mentioned to me was that, although he has all these incredible ideas and a profound vision for where he would like to take the youth, he has a hard time organizing and executing that vision in a way that makes it run like a “smooth operating machine”. Daniel is effective in his position because he is aware of his strengths as well as his weaknesses and knows how to find others who can complement those strengths and weaknesses in a way that best meets the goals of the overall vision.
I think that because Daniel is so relationship focused, driven, and aware of his own strengths and weaknesses this will allow him to strive in his position as Student Director of Lighthouse Church. After knowing Daniel just a short amount of time, I really see him succeeding in this position, leading the youth in their walks with Christ, and really making a difference in the lives of our next generation. Daniel, if continuing in the way he has, has the potential to become a pastor for the youth, which will allow him to lead them even more spiritually than he ever imagined for himself. My favorite thing to see in a leader, is a leader who did not choose to be a leader themselves, but who was chosen by Jesus to be a leader for Him and bring people to the cross so that they can meet Jesus and have a relationship with Him on their own. Daniel is an excellent gateway for the youth to come to know Jesus on a deeper level, and I see him doing great things.
Northouse, P. G. (2015). Introduction to Leadership Concepts and Practice (3rd ed.). Sage Publications.